Here’s a new one for us. On Monday, December 22, Greg Quilici received a message from Sausalito Yacht Harbor that his boom had fallen through the hard-top dodger of his Catalina 445 Blue Seaclusion. Understandably shocked and curious as to how a boom could destroy a hard dodger, Greg drove to the harbor to discover the boom had not fallen, but instead, the electric mainsheet winch had malfunctioned. It had turned itself on and proceeded to grind the mainsheet in until the boom was pulled down! No one was onboard at the time and the winch only stopped after overheating the thermal circuit breaker. "Having never heard of malfunctioning winches, it never occurred to me to cut the power off when leaving, particularly since the circuit breaker is located under the chart table," stated Greg.
Greg wrote, "You don’t really appreciate the power of these winches until you witness the destruction or bodily harm they could cause. I would caution everyone with an electric winch not to leave a sheet made up on it or cut off the power when departing."
The incident seemed odd, so we asked Greg if he had any other insights and, amazingly he responded: "I’ve come to find out that my neighbor at Sausalito Yacht Harbor, with a 2008 Catalina 42 and a hard dodger, had the exact thing happen 11 months ago. His winch malfunctioned with no one onboard and destroyed his dodger."
We got a little suspicious and asked Greg if he thought a vandal could be running around pushing winch buttons. Greg replied, "I thought the same thing, but there was a witness working on a boat two slips away who heard the dodger collapse. He told me he came over and the winch was running with the mainsheet slipping around the tailer. Apparently it was making a loud shrieking sound — like the old 12-meter winches."
We haven’t heard of this happening before, but would be curious to know if anyone has had similar issues. Let us know. The same problem in the same yacht harbor is highly coincidental. Either way, we think switches are provided everywhere for a reason. If they don’t need to be turned on, make sure they’re off!